History of Native Title Services in South Australia

Native Title Representative Bodies & Native Title Service Providers

Australia’s Native Title Act was created in 1993 and gives statutory recognition and protection of native title rights.

The roles of Native Title Representative Bodies (NTRB) are described in section 203B of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth) (NTA). In general, NTRB's:

  • assist claimants in the preparation of their claim applications;
  • provide claimants with legal representation
  • act as mediators between the claimants and the State Government.

You can see a map of NTRBs and Native Title Service Providers  (NTSPs) here.

Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement

The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc (ALRM) was the NTRB for South Australia from July 2000 to June 2008 and prior to that was responsible for all of the state with the exception of the APY and Maralinga Tjarutja lands.

A section within the ALRM, the Native Title Unit (NTU) managed the ALRM’s native title functions. The NTU operated largely independently to the other work of ALRM, but remained under the direction of ALRM’s Board and Chief Executive Officer. The NTU had a separate Executive Officer, Parry Agius who presided over the Unit's strategic directions.


South Australia’s first determination of native title

In 2005 both the litigated case of De Rose Hill and the establishment of the South Australian Native Title Resolution (SANTR) initiative took place.

De Rose Hill was an important early test case in native title law. The De Rose Hill claimants were successful in winning this case after litigation and appeal and the case confirmed the coexistence of their rights and interests with those of pastoral lessees.


SA Native Title Resolution initiative


The SANTR initiative, in contrast to the De Rose Hill litigation approach focussed on negotiation in native title. It brought together the ALRM NTU, the State Government, Native Title claimant groups, the Aboriginal Congress of South Australia, and peak industry bodies representing mining, fishing and farmers.

Negotiating sector based Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) was a focus of the SANTR initiative and by June 1998 there were 23 registered ILUAs in South Australia.

The first native title determination reached by consent, a “consent determination” was the case of Yankunytjatjara/Antakirinja Native Title Claim Group v The State of South Australia, which was determined in August 2006.

Establishment of SA Native Title Services Limited (SANTS)


The establishment of a stand-alone organisation to deliver native title services had been discussed by the ALRM, NTU, Congress and the Commonwealth for a number of years.

In November 2006, a joint meeting was held and Congress and ALRM agreed that separation of native title services from ALRM to form a separate legal entity would best serve the interests of all stakeholders.

In February 2007, ALRM advised the Commonwealth that it would relinquish its NTRB status. It was agreed that native title services were to be provided by a new corporate body to be funded under Section 203FE of the Native Title Act. The Commonwealth agreed to fund the establishment of this new body and appointed Acumen Alliance to register a new organisation. After a one year recognition period, the separation was completed on 1 July 2008.

In July 2008, South Australian Native Title Services (SANTS) was recognised as the Native Title Service Provider (NTSP) for South Australia. NTSPs are funded to do the same work as NTRBs.

SANTS Achievements


Since commencing operations as an independent organisation a decade ago, SANTS has maintained a focus on achieving native title outcomes through negotiation rather than litigation.

While the SANTR initiative concluded around 2010, the principles and directions set through this project continue to be upheld. A cooperative, strategic approach to native title resolution has since been implemented by the Federal Court, South Australian Government and SANTS. This positive approach has meant that

SANTS is proud of the native title outcomes achieved by Aboriginal nations in South Australia. There have been 30 determinations of native title in the decade that SANTS has operated independently.

We have assisted native title claim groups to negotiate ILUAs which provide an array of benefits and give recognition to the rights and interests of native title groups.

Alongside the negotiation of ILUAs, SANTS have also worked closely with the State Government to agree on and implement a consent determination process to provide for the formal recognition of native title by the Courts.

SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.